After cutting short her Australian sporting adventure, Fermanagh ladies football captain Joanne Doonan is at home in self-isolation.
The Kinawley girl left home in October last year to pursue a contract in the semi-pro AFL Women’s league with Carlton Blues, but with rising concerns around the coronavirus crisis she decided upon an early return.
As it happened, Carlton’s scheduled game against West Coast last Saturday was cancelled.
However, some matches did go ahead and there was Irish interest with Cavan’s Aishling Sheridan and Mayo’s Sarah Rowe playing for Collingwood against North Melbourne before a decision was then made to scrap the rest of the season.
The realisation of the gravity of the pandemic hit Down Under just as Doonan departed, with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison ordering the closure of pubs, casinos, gyms and cinemas, although schools will remain open for now.
“We were saying when we were in Australia that they were nearly behind the times. At home, it seemed a lot worse and people were taking things a lot more seriously, so we felt that maybe we should stay in Australia as long as we could because there are more people at home that could infect you and you were going to avoid them as long as possible,” she explained.
“When it came to it, every hour at home things were changing and every day there was new news and it became a lot more serious and we needed to do something before things went into lockdown.
“I was sitting worrying about where I should go and what I should do. My parents said to come on home.
“There maybe wasn’t the appreciation of what this was for a time.
“There was joking and laughing and some teachers among us who were talking about getting off work anyway.
“But whenever we were talking to people at home and they were talking about lockdown, I suppose the priorities changed. It genuinely was a strange situation and you were living in two different lives. You understood how serious it was getting at home but the Australians weren’t taking it seriously just yet.”
Doonan had been living in a house with three other girls who were playing in the AFLW, but after consulting with the club she decided to return home and reached Dublin Airport by Saturday.
“A few of us were leaving together, the Irish girls, and when we landed at the airport we saw people with masks,” she explained.
“You would think about it when you are sitting beside somebody for a 14-hour flight and then somebody else for an eight-hour flight. I think we were just being as wise as we could - don’t touch your face, washing your hands regularly.”
Doonan’s partner is the Fermanagh footballer James McMahon. After he collected her from the airport, they returned to his home, where she will self-isolate, mindful of her own high-risk elderly relatives.
“They have a spare room and I am hibernating there,” she added.